Singapore celebrates its 49th National Day on Aug. 9. The Singapore economy is holding up well amid global uncertainties. Singapore posted a 3.9 percent real GDP growth in 2013, and is expected to grow by 2-4 percent in 2014. Singapore also enjoys a low unemployment rate of around 2 percent. As a small nation lacking in natural resources, we have made remarkable progress since our independence in 1965. Singapore’s consistent economic performance has been made possible by the continued focus on the fundamentals of our society and economy. Singapore today is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, and has become one of the top choices in Asia to live, work and study.
In spite of uncertainties in the global economy over the past few years, Singapore has maintained our competitiveness by keeping our economy open for business, trade and investments. In addition, the Singapore government is committed to ensuring clean and effective governance, which has allowed for long-term policies beneficial for the people and the economy. In 2014, Singapore was ranked the easiest place to do business in the world by the World Bank. It was also named the top international city for meetings in a global ranking of 1,465 cities by the Union of International Associations for the seventh year running. Singapore is also ranked as the top city for investment potential, being Asia’s least bureaucratic place to do business, being the most transparent country in Asia and being among the world’s top three countries with the least corruption in the economy. Singapore today is home to the regional offices of many world-leading multinational corporations, including a number of top Korean companies. Moving forward, Singapore is growing to become one of the world’s leading financial centers while simultaneously boosting the productivity of local industries.
|Commercial buildings stand illuminated at night in the central business district of Singapore. (Bloomberg)|
Singapore continues to place strong emphasis on investing in our people, particularly in our future generations. Singapore today boasts some of the top tertiary institutions in Asia. The National University of Singapore, for instance, was ranked No. 2 in Asia by Times Higher Education Asia for 2014. Over the years, Singapore has also been able to attract top international educational institutions, such as INSEAD, MIT, Duke University and Yale University to name a few, to set up campuses or partner with our local institutions and contribute to our position as a thriving educational hub. Our emphasis on education also extends beyond our schools and into the workplace ― where government and employers work hand-in-hand to continually upgrade the skills of our labor force through various training programs. Singapore’s focus on quality lifelong education, coupled with our long-standing bilingual education policy, has allowed our people to stay relevant and thrive in an increasingly competitive global workplace.
Central to our identity as a nation is the rich multicultural heritage of the Singaporean society, and our openness to global influences. This is reflected in the growing arts and cultural scene in Singapore, which has grown in both vibrancy and scale over the last decade. Not only has Singapore played host to numerous international performers and exhibitions over the past year, our homegrown artists are also gaining prominence internationally. Singaporean feature film “Ilo Ilo” won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year, while Singaporean artists have participated widely at international arts and film festivals all over the world, including festivals in Korea. In addition, Singapore’s diverse heritage can be seen in the wide variety of foods found in Singapore ― from traditional Peranakan dishes unique to Southeast Asia, to international cuisine prepared by world-renowned chefs. We would like to take this opportunity to encourage our Korean friends to visit Singapore and to enjoy our vibrant arts and cultural scene, while at the same time sample the wide range of cuisines that Singapore has to offer.
Singapore and the Republic of Korea have enjoyed strong bilateral relations over the years, and will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties next year. Our countries share many common interests ― including the importance of a free and open international trading system, and a peaceful and nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. Our strong relations are underpinned by frequent high-level meetings between our leaders. In December last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made an official bilateral visit to ROK, and had a good discussion with President Park Geun-hye on a range of issues including greater cooperation in the Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, cooperation in aviation issues and collaboration for the creative economy. Shortly after the visit, Singapore Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim led a study visit to the ROK and met with Korean Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning Choi Mun-kee and other Korean businesses, to discuss collaboration and exchange ideas in ICT, media and technology. In June 2014, then-Minister of National Defense of Korea Kim Kwan-jin also visited Singapore for the Shangri La Dialogue. We look forward to more of such high-level political exchanges, which is a clear reflection of the strength of our bilateral ties.
Further to the high-level political interactions between Singapore and Korea, economic relations between our countries have also flourished since the Korea-Singapore FTA entered into force in 2006. Singapore is now Korea’s sixth-largest trading partner while Korea is Singapore’s eighth-largest trading partner, with bilateral trade amounting to $50.9 billion in 2013. As discussed by Prime Minister Lee and President Park during their bilateral summit last December, it has been some time since the Korea-Singapore FTA came into force, and in order to facilitate deeper economic cooperation between our countries, a robust review of the Korea-Singapore FTA is timely. We look forward to working closely with the relevant Korean officials to undertake the review of the Korea-Singapore FTA. Additionally, Singapore and Korea can further cooperate on aviation issues to promote greater economic and people-to-people exchanges between our regions and beyond. As aviation hubs located in Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia, respectively, Singapore and Korea can work together to increase the connectivity of Asia to the rest of the world. In this regard, we look forward to further liberalizing our aviation links with Korea, particularly to connect Southeast Asian and Korean consumers to other global destinations.
Singapore and Korea possess complementary qualities that give rise to greater partnership opportunities. In line with President Park’s plan to develop the creative economy and to internationalize Korean companies, a number of Korean agencies and organizations have chosen to collaborate with Singapore partners to capitalize on Singapore’s strengths as a regional hub in Southeast Asia and on our access to global trade. For instance, the Korean Health Industry Development Institute had recently partnered Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) to establish the KHIDI-A*STAR Medtech Development Center in Singapore in June 2014. In July 2014, the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning also established a Korea IT Cooperation Center in Singapore, their fourth overseas location, which underscores the strong growing partnership that Singapore and Korea enjoy. We look forward to deepening S&T collaboration between Singapore and Korea which leverages on our respective strengths and generates mutual benefits.
We are happy to note that more than 1,000 Korean companies have taken advantage of Singapore’s good geographical location and business-friendly environment to set up offices and deepen their presence in Singapore, including Samsung Electronics, NHN, SPC Group, Amore Pacific and many others. Similarly, many Singaporean companies have also made substantive investments in the growing Korean economy, including companies like Ascendas, CHC Food, DBS, Mapletree, PSA to name a few. Singapore companies Genting Singapore and SUTL ― which were involved in Singapore’s iconic tourism and lifestyle projects ― have already announced major investments in Jeju and Busan. These new projects are expected to provide a strong boost to the local hospitality sectors. Recently, a number of Singapore food-manufacturing companies have also signed MOUs with Korea’s Foodpolis development in North Jeolla Province, as Korea strives to become the food-manufacturing hub of Northeast Asia. Singapore companies play a meaningful role in the economic ecosystem of Korea, by creating quality employment opportunities and energizing their respective sectors.
I believe that with the continued support from our Korean friends, Singapore and Korea will be able to build stronger ties in the years to come. On this auspicious occasion of Singapore’s 49th National Day, let me wish all Singaporeans living in South Korea a happy National Day, and friends of Singapore a happy and prosperous year ahead.
|Ambassador Peter Tan Hai Chuan|
By Singaporean Ambassador Peter Tan Hai Chuan